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  1. #1
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    Standalone GPS for MTBproject / Trailforks routes?

    This is something I can't seem to find a definitive answer to, and I'm hoping someone can help me out.

    I'm thinking about buying a standalone GPS unit to use when riding. 99% of the time, I don't need directions, but for the times I do travel to new trails, I prefer to use MTBproject or Trailforks routes. I don't want to mount my phone on my handlebars, because the last phone that was mounted on my handlebars got lost in the woods after a crash. So I usually end up keeping my phone in my pocket or hydration pack, and it's a big pain in the ass stopping at every intersection to pull out my phone and open an app to see where I'm going.

    I'm also interested in more accurate ride tracking ie using a wheel sensor combined with GPS tracking.

    Is there a device that fits the bill? I read some posts saying the Edge 520 can do this, and others say it can't. I want something that shows a map, where I'm at and where I need to go. I don't need turn by turn GPS that tells me to turn left or right, just something to use for orientation on a given route. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Mr. Buck E. Fikes
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    Edge 520 will do that. I have one for nearly 2 years, now. In order to follow trails on the edge, you would have to upload them to the unit after downloading a .gpx from the maps. I'd recommend Trailforks over MTBProj, my own experience, and I'm a Regional Admin for Trailforks so I know the ins and outs. I seldom do routes on my 520 unless I'm riding unfamiliar territory. That's the beauty of TF, too. You can always access your place on the trail on a smartphone even without cell coverage if something goes awry on the 520 routes.

    I should clarify that you can now build trail routes in Trailforks and download those routes so you can check them after building and confirming they are solid before uploading to the Edge 520. Lots of really cool features being added to Trailforks constantly like Printing your own maps, building routes, etc.

  3. #3
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    While Trailforks does have better coverage in some areas (while mtbproject has better coverage in others), I have a major beef with Trailforks and avoid using it if at all possible because they were very shady when they were starting up by skimming data from other sites. I only found it because they skimmed data that I had put online for a trail system in Indiana. The guy who put it on there was from Vancouver. Not a chance he went to Indiana and GPSed the entire trail system in question. Turns out, he did something similar in a lot of other random states. Trailforks/Pinkbike employee, of course. So no, TF can kiss my @$$.

    The Edge 520 will do what you ask, however.

    I don't really care to navigate mtb trails with a GPS, though. Just doesn't work as well in practice even though it technically "works". Even a phone doesn't quite cut it. For times when I don't know the trail system, I have gone back to paper maps after experimenting with digital mapping on the trail. I'll do my route scouting at home on the computer and relate that to my paper map when possible. I only make use of digital maps on a ride when good paper ones don't exist.

    FWIW, zooming or panning the map on the Edge 520 is a serious pain.

  4. #4
    Mr. Buck E. Fikes
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    Trailforks is a totally user-sourced system. If .gpx files on any mapping program are available for downloading, I fail to see the problem of someone taking the time to collect it to populate more areas for users. Whether an "employee" or not? I see little issue with that, also. Trailforks has a lot of "Super-Users" that are NOT employees but guys that are really interested in populating the mapping software and they put a great deal of time into it. I think it's an awesome system because it gives us all a chance to contribute the trails we know and gives us associations our own ability to improve on accuracy of mapping and control all the nuances of our trail networks through editing of track logs, poi's, and virtually every aspect of what the user sees on their mapping device. You come use TF here in my region of Central Coast California, I can assure you the trails are accurized, they're all properly connected tracks so they will route correctly, and I'm making improvements constantly to assure further accuracy. Anyway, if that issue got your goat, you're welcome to hang on to the grudge. I just don't see the rub. 'nuff said, I 'spose.

  5. #5
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    I say you can use both a Standalone GPS unit and Trailforks app. Depending on your trail network and riding style its sometimes nice to have a GPS unit like a Garmin Edge mounted to your bars so you don't have to stop to pull out the phone. The riding around where I live this isn't an issue, since we usually climb to the top, stop, put on pads, rest, then head down. So plenty of time to pull out a phone and check. But if your on more of an XC network with lots of intersections, its nice to keep the flow going and not stop.

    For the Garmin units, Trailforks produces custom Garmin maps, available after you make a donation to a local trail association. We updated them last month.
    https://www.trailforks.com/tools/garminmaps/

    You can create a personal route on the TF website and download the GPX file yo your garmin unit.
    https://www.trailforks.com/ridelog/planner/
    Or find an existing route and save it to the app or download the GPX file.
    https://www.trailforks.com/ridelog/finder/

    The Trailforks mobile app will have turn-by-turn voice directions for any of the above routes synced to the app in the new year. All existing routes and new routes created now have turn directions meta data generated with it in preparation. So if you take the time to plan your ride, you may not need a screen to look at ever, if you just listen to the audio turn directions. I think it would still be nice to have the visual display though.

    A Trailforks app for Garmin watches that communicates with the Trailforks app is also partially done. This won't show a map, its pretty limited what we can do on these watches, but will show some basic trail info.

    As far as Garmin Edge units, I wouldn't recommend the Edge 520, it has a small internal storage with no SD card. So its harder to fit any maps on it. Any of the edge models above that have SD cards, so you have lots of space to fit custom Trailforks maps, other custom maps and lots of GPX route files.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by canadaka View Post
    I say you can use both a Standalone GPS unit and Trailforks app. Depending on your trail network and riding style its sometimes nice to have a GPS unit like a Garmin Edge mounted to your bars so you don't have to stop to pull out the phone. The riding around where I live this isn't an issue, since we usually climb to the top, stop, put on pads, rest, then head down. So plenty of time to pull out a phone and check. But if your on more of an XC network with lots of intersections, its nice to keep the flow going and not stop.

    For the Garmin units, Trailforks produces custom Garmin maps, available after you make a donation to a local trail association. We updated them last month.
    https://www.trailforks.com/tools/garminmaps/

    You can create a personal route on the TF website and download the GPX file yo your garmin unit.
    https://www.trailforks.com/ridelog/planner/
    Or find an existing route and save it to the app or download the GPX file.
    https://www.trailforks.com/ridelog/finder/

    The Trailforks mobile app will have turn-by-turn voice directions for any of the above routes synced to the app in the new year. All existing routes and new routes created now have turn directions meta data generated with it in preparation. So if you take the time to plan your ride, you may not need a screen to look at ever, if you just listen to the audio turn directions. I think it would still be nice to have the visual display though.

    A Trailforks app for Garmin watches that communicates with the Trailforks app is also partially done. This won't show a map, its pretty limited what we can do on these watches, but will show some basic trail info.

    As far as Garmin Edge units, I wouldn't recommend the Edge 520, it has a small internal storage with no SD card. So its harder to fit any maps on it. Any of the edge models above that have SD cards, so you have lots of space to fit custom Trailforks maps, other custom maps and lots of GPX route files.
    Thanks for the detailed reply. Are any of your routes compatible with the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt? It seems like the reviews for the higher end Garmin units are very mixed and I'd rather not spend that kind of coin unless all the bugs are worked out.

  7. #7
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    For sure any GPX file downloaded from Trailforks will work on the Wahoo. But the custom basemaps no. I have been contacted by Wahoo about that though, need to followup, so many things to do!

  8. #8
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    Cheapest bike oriented unit would be a 2nd hand Garmin 810.
    Otherwise a Garmin Oregon or even eTrex with a bar mount will do it.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by canadaka View Post
    For sure any GPX file downloaded from Trailforks will work on the Wahoo. But the custom basemaps no. I have been contacted by Wahoo about that though, need to followup, so many things to do!
    Hurry up man. I want to buy a Wahoo.

  10. #10
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    This GPS unit also looked interesting, Android powered. It's coming out soon. It will have the ability to import any Trailforks route or rideplan and sync to it. By pasting the TF url into their web service or hopefully connecting your TF account via Oauth.
    https://www.hammerhead.io/pages/karoo

    It's actually getting to be a pretty crowded market for GPS units. I just have the older Garmin Edge 810.

  11. #11
    since 4/10/2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oh My Sack! View Post
    Trailforks is a totally user-sourced system. If .gpx files on any mapping program are available for downloading, I fail to see the problem of someone taking the time to collect it to populate more areas for users. Whether an "employee" or not? I see little issue with that, also. Trailforks has a lot of "Super-Users" that are NOT employees but guys that are really interested in populating the mapping software and they put a great deal of time into it. I think it's an awesome system because it gives us all a chance to contribute the trails we know and gives us associations our own ability to improve on accuracy of mapping and control all the nuances of our trail networks through editing of track logs, poi's, and virtually every aspect of what the user sees on their mapping device. You come use TF here in my region of Central Coast California, I can assure you the trails are accurized, they're all properly connected tracks so they will route correctly, and I'm making improvements constantly to assure further accuracy. Anyway, if that issue got your goat, you're welcome to hang on to the grudge. I just don't see the rub. 'nuff said, I 'spose.
    The guy's profile said he was an employee.

    I find it to be extremely shady to skim data from competitors. It may not be outright copyright violation, but it is cheap. It may violate the TOS of the site where it was downloaded, which might make it more than just cheap and shady.

    And yes, I hold a grudge about it. And convenient that the TF employee who posts here has not once addressed my concerns about that, publicly or privately. That might have gone a very long way towards preventing that grudge from ever forming.

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    The guy's profile said he was an employee.

    I find it to be extremely shady to skim data from competitors. It may not be outright copyright violation, but it is cheap. It may violate the TOS of the site where it was downloaded, which might make it more than just cheap and shady.

    And yes, I hold a grudge about it. And convenient that the TF employee who posts here has not once addressed my concerns about that, publicly or privately. That might have gone a very long way towards preventing that grudge from ever forming.

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
    I for one appreciate TF utilizing publicly available information to build the most robust mapping and info source possible. I don't see a major issue with it, but rather think its positive given it makes their app better.
    Marin County, CA

  13. #13
    since 4/10/2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by DriverB View Post
    I for one appreciate TF utilizing publicly available information to build the most robust mapping and info source possible. I don't see a major issue with it, but rather think its positive given it makes their app better.
    Consider this:

    Is the data TRULY public if they download it from a competitor?

    Evidence:

    https://www.adventureprojects.net/terms

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    Considering the above portions of MTBProject's Terms, the Pinkbike/Trailforks employee had to have created an account in order to download MY CONTENT (the Terms clearly state that even though I submitted it to their service, I do retain ownership of it) and then upload it to the Trailforks service. Being a competitor of MTBProject, this is a CLEAR violation of MTBProject's Terms. The language of the terms make it clear to me that the data is not truly PUBLIC. The data is available for no cost, but it is NOT okay to surreptitiously skim it to put onto a competing service. IF the Trailforks employee pulled the data from a government website, it would be an entirely different discussion. But that didn't happen, because the trails were too new to appear in their entirety on any government agency website (I know this, because I frequently accessed the state's trails database file), and especially not in the exact same format I used to upload them to MTBProject.

    Additionally:

    https://www.trailforks.com/about/legal/

    Uploaded Material
    You may, only upload material that is your own, or you have the copyright to.
    Clear violation of Trailforks' OWN Terms.

  14. #14
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    I've run and moderated forums since the 90's so hate when topics get off-topic like this. But alas.

    I'm sorry that some of your GPS tracks might have been used, can't really verify if that is the case, as both sites modify the original GPS track data on upload. Not saying it isn't. But both sites have found each other taking GPS tracks from each other in the past. One of the other Trailforks developers had a whole bunch of his personal GPS tracks taken from TF and posted on MTBproject by their interns. And like your case its possible some TF ambassadors or keener users have done the same. We briefly talked about it with mtbproject and pretty much have a gentlemen's agreement not to do it too each other. Your case was 3+ years ago?

    Trailforks has detailed logging of all gps file downloads and we occasionally contact users when we find egregious abuse. We'd found examples of other sites making dozens of accounts and downloading thousands. So we are sensitive to the issue both ways.

    FYI back in 2014 users could download GPX files from both Mtbproject and Trailforks without an account or logging in. Both sites now require login to download.

    Neither site can stop users from doing it themselves and many users and trail associations upload the same data to both sites, which is fine. Both sites have been found taking each others data in the past and I think we both try and discourage it and stop it over the recent years and future.

    Sometimes users get really into mapping an area and Trailforks works different than mtpproject, in that we allow and encourage trails to be added with just the basic info. Not requiring strict fleshed out content to start. As it gets filled in over time and in the meantime we provide a lot of features and usage statistics with just that basic gps track & trail name data.

    IMO the GPS data is a wash, Trailforks currently has 2-3 times more trail GPS data, but in the long run both sites will accumulate great coverage. So its not about collecting all the gps data, but what you do with it, what value you add to the data and how you present it. IMO and most others Trailforks gives WAY more value add to the data with easily 80% more features, and more innovation and unique capabilities.

    Also adding a GPS track is only the starting point on Trailforks. As we make it easy for anyone to then edit that track to improve its accuracy. Each trails accuracy improves over time as users submit edits wiki-style and start and end points get snapped to nearby trails. Users modify the GPS track by using our ridelog heatmap layer as a guide, making it way more accurate than a single users gps track. I personally rarely upload a GPX file, I usually draw in a trail tracing our heatmap data.

    Best I can tell we're talking about 8 out of the 13 trails in that Brown County region. If you want I can delete the GPS tracks for those trails. Then I will just re-create them by drawing/tracing them in using our heatmap data, which will be more accurate as well.

    Example:
    Standalone GPS for MTBproject / Trailforks routes?-capture.png

    Again I apologize if these trails were indeed taken from your GPS file uploads. I also apologize on behalf of the Trailforks contributor. It was over 3 years ago now and any Trailforks staff or user "Trail Ambassadors" were told years ago to never do that.

    Happy Trails.

    FYI as per the original threads topic. We've recently been working on our custom Garmin basemap and have better trail routing working on device. We also updated all our garmin maps worldwide with new trail content at the start of December. We will update them again sometime in the new year with the improved routing.

  15. #15
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    canadaka: newbie to GPS question - are you saying that a $540 Garmin Edge 820 (CDN price at MEC) is the cheapest way to get Trailforks maps onto a non-phone GPS device?

    I ask because my wife and I are planning another 6-week mountain-bike adventure through WA, OR, CA, AZ, UT and ID. Last year, having Trailforks maps was absolutely essential to us, because we never knew where we were or where we were going. But we used it on her iPhone, and battery life was a serious problem. We were rationing usage knowing that we had very little total time to see where we were on the maps.

    We don't need any other features - no tracking, no interfacing with other devices, no Strava etc... All we are looking for is finding out where we are on a decent map of the area, and navigating from that. And we really, really appreciated the simplicity of using the TF maps: load the entire state onto the phone with a single click, start the app and ride.

    Do we really need to spend $540 to get mapping from a device without severe battery-life limitations?

    Thank you.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by TooSteep View Post
    canadaka: newbie to GPS question - are you saying that a $540 Garmin Edge 820 (CDN price at MEC) is the cheapest way to get Trailforks maps onto a non-phone GPS device?

    I ask because my wife and I are planning another 6-week mountain-bike adventure through WA, OR, CA, AZ, UT and ID. Last year, having Trailforks maps was absolutely essential to us, because we never knew where we were or where we were going. But we used it on her iPhone, and battery life was a serious problem. We were rationing usage knowing that we had very little total time to see where we were on the maps.

    We don't need any other features - no tracking, no interfacing with other devices, no Strava etc... All we are looking for is finding out where we are on a decent map of the area, and navigating from that. And we really, really appreciated the simplicity of using the TF maps: load the entire state onto the phone with a single click, start the app and ride.

    Do we really need to spend $540 to get mapping from a device without severe battery-life limitations?

    Thank you.
    You could buy a used Garmin 810 which would be cheaper and still loads custom maps on an SD card. Another option is to just buy or use a cheaper slightly older generation phone with no SIM card. A phone battery will last WAY longer with the phone radio or airplane mode enabled. Just connect to Wifi when needed.

    The maps on Garmin are kinda clunky and purely for navigation. You get a lot more meta data using the app. But even a phone on airplane won't last as long as a garmin.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by TooSteep View Post
    canadaka: newbie to GPS question - are you saying that a $540 Garmin Edge 820 (CDN price at MEC) is the cheapest way to get Trailforks maps onto a non-phone GPS device?

    I ask because my wife and I are planning another 6-week mountain-bike adventure through WA, OR, CA, AZ, UT and ID. Last year, having Trailforks maps was absolutely essential to us, because we never knew where we were or where we were going. But we used it on her iPhone, and battery life was a serious problem. We were rationing usage knowing that we had very little total time to see where we were on the maps.

    We don't need any other features - no tracking, no interfacing with other devices, no Strava etc... All we are looking for is finding out where we are on a decent map of the area, and navigating from that. And we really, really appreciated the simplicity of using the TF maps: load the entire state onto the phone with a single click, start the app and ride.

    Do we really need to spend $540 to get mapping from a device without severe battery-life limitations?

    Thank you.
    There are LOTS of other places to get decent maps that you don't have to spend over $500 on a Garmin for maps specifically from trailforks.

    Widen your horizons a little bit. Maybe an auxiliary battery can keep the phone charged long enough. Maybe an older refurbished and discontinued Garmin Edge 705 will do what you need for a fraction of the cost. Maybe you can make use of maps from somewhere else like gpsfiledepot.com or osm. Or maybe you can get your hands on good quality physical maps for the the destinations on your trip. All those options will cost less than buying a Garmin Edge 820 that has way more features than you want and costs more than you want to spend.

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk

  18. #18
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    You could use one of these and really extend the life of your cell phone battery. Make sure you use airplane mode most of the time.




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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by canadaka View Post
    This GPS unit also looked interesting, Android powered. It's coming out soon. It will have the ability to import any Trailforks route or rideplan and sync to it. By pasting the TF url into their web service or hopefully connecting your TF account via Oauth.
    https://www.hammerhead.io/pages/karoo

    It's actually getting to be a pretty crowded market for GPS units. I just have the older Garmin Edge 810.
    Has anybody purchase it and how good is it. Didn't see anything on their web site about being able to download maps/trails and battery life.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nash04 View Post
    Has anybody purchase it and how good is it. Didn't see anything on their web site about being able to download maps/trails and battery life.
    there are other threads about that particular device if you have questions for the people who bought it.

  21. #21
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    If you follow the DCRainMaker GPS review guy he shows you how to put maps on the Garmin 520. It is a bit of a hack, but I was able to load the Trailforks Utah map onto a 520. There are 2 versions of the Trailforks Garmin map, I loaded the one that contains all the roads, dirt roads, water, and trails.

    But just about any GPS, even the cheap ones will load a GPX file. The main difference is that most units can only load one track, and it is one color. With the Trailforks Basemap it actually has roads and dirt roads and I had to use it in my car once as I was rolling into Moab to find the turn-off to the trailhead. Cell coverage sucks between Moab and Green River. Out on the trail it is nice cause you can see dirt roads in brown, but easily find the trails cause they are colored brightly by their difficulty.

    The only time I have found loading one GPX file useful is when I want to preride a really big race course in a dense system, like Park City Point2Point. Otherwise I just add a suggested ride to my wishlist and sync it to the app. Or create my own route and sync it to the app.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by unkosama View Post
    If you follow the DCRainMaker GPS review guy he shows you how to put maps on the Garmin 520. It is a bit of a hack, but I was able to load the Trailforks Utah map onto a 520. There are 2 versions of the Trailforks Garmin map, I loaded the one that contains all the roads, dirt roads, water, and trails.

    But just about any GPS, even the cheap ones will load a GPX file. The main difference is that most units can only load one track, and it is one color. With the Trailforks Basemap it actually has roads and dirt roads and I had to use it in my car once as I was rolling into Moab to find the turn-off to the trailhead. Cell coverage sucks between Moab and Green River. Out on the trail it is nice cause you can see dirt roads in brown, but easily find the trails cause they are colored brightly by their difficulty.

    The only time I have found loading one GPX file useful is when I want to preride a really big race course in a dense system, like Park City Point2Point. Otherwise I just add a suggested ride to my wishlist and sync it to the app. Or create my own route and sync it to the app.
    The Garmin Edge 520 thread on this forum covers that method, too, with a couple additional tips.

    I generally agree with your assessment about when different options are useful, though I prefer other maps. I have tried building a Course for mtb trails for my Edge 520 to follow, and it doesn't work nearly as well as it does for long road rides. I might use it for a long race, since it does supply an ETA of finish, which can be useful for gauging pacing. But if the Course is not EXACTLY the same as what the computer thinks you're actually riding (that will be extremely difficult to accomplish), you'll get annoying "Off Course" warnings pretty frequently.

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